Friday, July 25, 2008

Frugal Food

Like most of us, I’m haunted by signs of economic woe. The news is littered with stories of a shattered housing industry, bank runs, foreclosures, rising unemployment, and other tales of financial disaster. I hear snippets of conversation from the moms at the pool lamenting rising food prices, and I cringe whenever I fill my car with gas. In the relatively prosperous suburbs I see boarded up restaurants and gas stations, and I can’t help wondering what to do about it all.

My own kitchen is where the rubber meets the road for me. In my family, I am a notoriously scattered shopper and sometime cook. I dabble in the culinary arts the way I dabble with knitting and scrap booking—yet my family needs to eat three meals a day, 365 days a year.

In spite of this I still believe that shopping for food and other daily household items offers the most opportunity to save money in a failing economy, despite rising food costs. It just depends on how time, effort, brainpower, and creativity I’m willing to invest. So I’m setting out on a journey to figure out how to save money at the grocery store and time and energy in the kitchen.


I was a bit demoralized by my quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few items. For $21.48, I was able to get two large containers of Quaker Oats, two bags of Sun Chips, and two dozen eggs. Quaker Oats, a product I usually find to be cost effective, cost 13 cents an ounce. It’s clearly way past time for me to get busy.


I was demoralized even further by the thought that I really need to clear out my freezer. To be brutally honest, I need to see some empty freezer, refrigerator, and pantry space before I make any kind of significant outlay at the grocery store.

Wealth is not just money in the bank. As it has been since the dawn of humankind, wealth is really a well-stocked larder. To ignore the fuzzy, white, unidentifiable packages in the freezer is the same as ignoring the savings account balance. Although it isn’t one of my strongest skills, I’m taking my imagination (and perhaps the imaginations of my husband and daughter) into the freezer and pantry to drum up some ideals for meals.

At least in the pantry I know what I’m working with, since the food products are adorned with helpful labels. I’m just plain scared of digging through my freezer. I once thawed out some chicken, some of the bloodiest chicken I’ve ever rinsed, only to realize after several moments under the faucet that it was actually pork chops. (It was an honest mistake since they had been purchased by my mother-in-law a couple of month earlier. I never buy pork chops.) It will certainly take every ounce of moral courage I possess to go hunting around in my freezer, but I’m sure the little hors d’oeuvre sized spinach pastries I know are hiding somewhere in there will make it all worthwhile.

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